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MySpace The Music (Video) Exchange

MySpace today announced the launch of a new music program that will deliver exclusive videos of performances by popular recording artists.

MySpace Transmissions will provide a channel for artists to create and virally distribute their video content to MySpace users. It will also make audio tracks available for purchase through an agreement with Warner Music Group's Atlantic Records.

Transmissions will feature a private recording session with the artist that MySpace members will be able to view either through the Transmissions profile or through MySpace TV. Artists will either perform new songs or re-record previously released material. The video sessions will also include interviews with the artists. MySpace will archive all Transmissions content to be available for on-demand viewing.

If users like what they hear, they can click a link to purchase the audio of the performance, with the revenue split between the artist and the label according to the terms of their contract. Unlike Apple's iTunes store, MySpace is leaving the pricing of the music up to the artists and labels. MySpace will receive no revenue from the sale of downloadable audio files.

MySpace members will be able to add the videos to their own profiles, and virally share content across the site.

Atlantic is the only record label with which MySpace is announcing a partnership, though it is in active negotiations with others to broaden the content that it will make available through Transmissions.

"We're committed to working with all stakeholders in the industry to develop monetization structures that work for labels, bands and fans," MySpace VP of Programming and Content said in a statement. "Stay tuned – this is the tip of the iceberg for MySpace Music."

Just how deep that iceberg goes is still unclear, though an expansion of the exclusive audio content made available for purchase through partnerships with record labels could be the next leg of MySpace's strategy to turn itself into an online music destination.

MySpace says that Transmissions is built for major artists who are looking to reconnect with their fans, not for the legions of obscure bands that use MySpace to promote their music.

Transmissions is currently available only to U.S. users, but MySpace says that users in other countries will soon have access to the same videos and be able to purchase the same audio content.

MySpace is debuting Transmissions with a performance from James Blunt, the performer of Transmissions keynote performer will be James Blunt, a multi-platinum British singer/songwriter signed with Custard/Atlantic Records. Blunt recorded five tracks exclusively for MySpace Transmissions, including the new single "Same Mistake."

The announcement comes just over a year after Universal Music Group (UMG) sued MySpace for "rampant copyright infringement."

It also comes on the same day that Universal artist Colbie Caillat posted a note to her fans on her MySpace blog apologizing for a UMG policy that compelled her to replace the streams of full songs on her profile page and replace them with 90 second clips. Full versions of some songs are still available on her own Web page.

Bloggers and posters to comment threads have been quick to register their disappointment, characterizing the move as another example of the tone-deaf music industry snubbing the digital audience whose business it desperately needs.

However, that portrayal would seem to clash with Universal's expected announcement today that it will offer free music on Nokia phones to stimulate its digital business.

It has also been reported that Universal's move does not specifically target MySpace, but rather that the directive issued to its artists is simply enforcing a six-month-old policy limiting the label has had in place to retain control of its streaming content.